Comment on Portable Solar Panels - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-21-2014, 09:10 AM   #1
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Name: Huck
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Comment on Portable Solar Panels

I'm camping on Ocracoke Island and getting a lot of rain. Yesterday there were about 40 tents in the campground and this morning it is down to 13. I was just lucky and picked a site that hardly got any water accumulation at all. The campground was about 50% flooded when I looked out at 7 am.

But, back to solar panel. I have a 100 watt panel mounted on roof and a 100 watt portable panel. I accidentally left my laptop on overnight and drained the battery. After 2 days of rain, my trailer batteries are down a little and I was a little worried about draining them even more by charging the laptop.

About 8 am, I noticed that even with it being completely overcast, my voltmeter was starting to tick a little higher, so I waited until it was up about .15 volts and then went ahead and charged my laptop. The point is that even with just a little light, you will get some charging from the solar panel.

Weather report is calling for rain every day this week. If I had to keep putting up and taking down the portable panel, I probably would miss a lot of charging time. With a panel on the roof, you are always ready for any sun you might get.

So I'm thinking that for short trips (2 or 3 days), a portable panel probably works fine, but for longer trips a roof mounted panel is going to be more efficient at collecting any light available.

It is starting to get real cloudy again, but laptop is almost completely charged and trailer batteries are being charged as well. I'd say at least 90% cloud cover right now.
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Old 09-21-2014, 07:08 PM   #2
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It is great that you are getting a charge out of Ocracoke Island. That is not good to drain your batteries too far. Don't worry, a one or two time drain is not the end of the world, just be sure it is not much more than that, especially if you have a single 12 volt RV battery.

I guess I am wondering why you are taking up your portable panel when it rains? Most panels are designed to be in the elements. If you have cables and cords the rain will not hurt them, even connectors. Just be sure to keep them out of puddles.

The thing you learn quickly with a solar panel is to make hay when the sun shines. I would have every inch of panel ready and waiting for some sun and catching what they can on overcast days. The beauty of the portable panel is that you can move it and point it precisely at the angle to get the most sun., or filtered light as the case may be.
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Old 09-21-2014, 07:16 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Huck View Post
I'm camping on Ocracoke Island and getting a lot of rain. Yesterday there were about 40 tents in the campground and this morning it is down to 13. I was just lucky and picked a site that hardly got any water accumulation at all. The campground was about 50% flooded when I looked out at 7 am.

But, back to solar panel. I have a 100 watt panel mounted on roof and a 100 watt portable panel. I accidentally left my laptop on overnight and drained the battery. After 2 days of rain, my trailer batteries are down a little and I was a little worried about draining them even more by charging the laptop.

About 8 am, I noticed that even with it being completely overcast, my voltmeter was starting to tick a little higher, so I waited until it was up about .15 volts and then went ahead and charged my laptop. The point is that even with just a little light, you will get some charging from the solar panel.

Weather report is calling for rain every day this week. If I had to keep putting up and taking down the portable panel, I probably would miss a lot of charging time. With a panel on the roof, you are always ready for any sun you might get.

So I'm thinking that for short trips (2 or 3 days), a portable panel probably works fine, but for longer trips a roof mounted panel is going to be more efficient at collecting any light available.

It is starting to get real cloudy again, but laptop is almost completely charged and trailer batteries are being charged as well. I'd say at least 90% cloud cover right now.
How do you charge a lap top with .15 volts?
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Old 09-21-2014, 07:49 PM   #4
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Just curious. What construction are your panels, monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or amorphous thin film?

If you're not sure, give me the make and model number and I can find it on the web.

Thanks.
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Old 09-21-2014, 11:34 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Huck View Post

So I'm thinking that for short trips (2 or 3 days), a portable panel probably works fine, but for longer trips a roof mounted panel is going to be more efficient at collecting any light available.
I've had solar for about 5 years maybe 6. My experience is that, at least for me, I don't need to recharge my battery for 3 to 4 days after arriving. I have a portable panel. I have a neat little pocket for it in the back of my truck. It stays there for 3 to 4 days after we arrive.

The advantage of the portable panel is that when in a heavily shaded site I can chase the sun. The disadvantage is when I'm in the southwest where there is no shade I still have to chase the sun.

The one thing that made the biggest difference is reduced my dependency of battery power. All the lights are LED and some draw less current than others. We use the ones that draw the least the most. The only other thing that draws current the furnace fan.

Charging electronic devices is something else that's not so difficult to handle. We usually go someplace sight seeing, the store, etc every few days. All the electronic devices get charged from the tow vehicle while doing these other things. Makes life simple and no fuss and worry.

I'm not everybody should do things this way, but it works quite well for us.
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Old 09-22-2014, 05:58 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by The Minimalist View Post
Just curious. What construction are your panels, monocrystalline, polycrystalline, or amorphous thin film?

If you're not sure, give me the make and model number and I can find it on the web.

Thanks.
mono
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Old 09-22-2014, 06:02 PM   #7
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That is not good to drain your batteries too far. Don't worry, a one or two time drain is not the end of the world, just be sure it is not much more than that, especially if you have a single 12 volt RV battery.
Laptop battery was dead, not rv batteries.

Quote:
I guess I am wondering why you are taking up your portable panel when it rains? Most panels are designed to be in the elements. If you have cables and cords the rain will not hurt them, even connectors. Just be sure to keep them out of puddles.
I could leave my portable panel out all the time because the charge controller is inside the trailer. But many people with a portable panel have the controller outside. Plus there is the security issue. I think most people with a portable panel put it out when it is sunny and take down at night.
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Old 09-22-2014, 06:09 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Dean Vorhees View Post
How do you charge a lap top with .15 volts?
I just used that as an indicator that the solar panel was doing some charging of my trailer batteries and figured it was safe to charge my laptop. My voltmeter showed the batteries putting out about 12.55 v. When it got up to 12.70 v, I started charging the laptop.
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Old 09-22-2014, 07:03 PM   #9
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Good post, and excellent point. The fixed panels are always doing something, even when you don't feel like putting the portable panels out, or forget, or are going off and don't want to leave them out. Another point is the fixed panels are kicking it while you are going down then road, or while "camping" at Walmart and you don't want to be so obvious. I think I may put my portable panels up on the top of my old camper shell. I can orient the truck to possibly better conditions than the trailer and they are off the ground so my kid is not knocking them over with her bicycle.

One thing I do not understand though. What are the ramifications of having say four panels, all of equal wattage, with two fixed and two portable with two pair putting out different than the other two? Can a (MPPT) controller deal with this successfully or does the output drop to the lowest common denominator?

What if you have say 200 watts fixed and only 100 watts portable?
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:02 AM   #10
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Thanks for posting info. I am only in the planning stages and already know I want to have solar, and now I know that I want fixed and portable panels.

Question: are you living solely off of solar?
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:12 PM   #11
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Thanks for posting info. I am only in the planning stages and already know I want to have solar, and now I know that I want fixed and portable panels.

Question: are you living solely off of solar?
Solar and propane.
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